Advertisement
Share

Modern-Day Battle of Alamo Brews in Texas : History: The traditionalists see the shrine as a symbol of freedom and bravery. But revisionists say it’s just a big lie perpetuated by a ‘redneck culture.’

ASSOCIATED PRESS

They’re fighting at the Alamo again. This time, it’s the legend that’s under siege.

On one side are the traditionalists who see the Alamo as an undeniable symbol of Texas pride and independence. On the other are the revisionists who see it as just a big lie perpetuated by a “redneck culture.”

Reputations of longtime heroes like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, killed more than a century ago defending the fort, are under attack.

Some of the allegations seem downright blasphemous: Bowie took part in an elaborate slave-running scam. Crockett was a washed-up politician who didn’t even wear a coonskin cap. William Barret Travis, the Alamo’s commander, suffered from syphilis.

Advertisement

What in Sam Houston is going on here?

“I think there’s just kind of a general re-evaluation of the Alamo that is occurring, not just among Mexican-Americans but among other people,” said Avelardo Valdez, a sociologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

For more than a century, the tale of the Alamo was the same: In 1836, fewer than 200 Texans fighting for independence defended a fortress against more than 4,000 Mexicans.

The Mexicans won; all the Texans were killed. But their bravery was celebrated, and “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry when Texas fighters marched to victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Today, the cry is over how to remember the Alamo. Was it a heroic struggle for freedom or a ruthless display of imperialism and racism?

“I still feel that Mexican-Americans do not view the Alamo as something that symbolizes some kind of symbol of freedom or liberty. . . . I still believe they see it more as a symbol of racism,” Valdez said.

Defending the Alamo--and its reputation--this time is the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, a group of mostly white women who trace their ancestors to when Texas was a nation, from 1836 to 1845.

The group has managed the site since the state entrusted it with the task in 1905.

Advertisement

But critics scorn the group as an exclusive club. Valdez calls the Daughters representative of an archaic “redneck culture” that doesn’t represent Texas’ increasingly diverse population.

“This exclusive little clique has nevertheless succeeded in convincing many that their baseless mythology is fact,” San Antonio Express-News columnist Carlos Guerra wrote. “As they see it, Texas history is about how freedom-loving Anglos came to Texas and brought civilization to the local savages.”

Guerra, Valdez and others want to force the Alamo’s caretakers to show off a larger slice of the monument’s multicultural history.

One proposal would restore the Alamo and adjacent grounds as San Antonio de Valero, the Catholic mission established at the site by Spaniards in the 1700s.

Advertisement

Last year, city officials closed a street in front of the Alamo to keep tour buses from running over an area that is believed to be a mission-era graveyard holding the remains of 921 Native Americans and three dozen others. Upcoming Fiesta parades also have been rerouted.

The actions were taken over the strong protests of the Daughters.

“It was a mission, but that’s not what made it famous,” said Arthur Cavazos, the group’s spokesman. “It’s a place where a small group of men decided to make their stand and fight for liberty until the death.”

City Councilman Bill Thornton, a mayoral hopeful and a vocal critic of the Alamo’s status quo, contends that “there is absolutely no context of history” on the Alamo grounds.

Advertisement

“The Alamo is big enough, the message from the Alamo is strong enough, for everyone to be included and everyone’s voice to be heard,” he said.

Perhaps he’s right. And maybe the battle is already making a difference.

Two tourist information signs recently appeared in front of the famous edifice.

One begins: “The Alamo has a long and diversified history.”

Advertisement


Advertisement